Nearly 6,000 state security and safety employees are to vote within 60 days on whether to break away from the embattled Wisconsin State Employees Union.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission ordered the vote Wednesday after concluding that relatively little harm was done by state officials who were unfair to the Wisconsin State Employees Union by giving the dissident security group advantages as it organized.
The defection of 5,700 workers, many of them prison guards, would further hobble the state workers union, which is already hurting because Act 10 of 2011 removed most public-sector union rights.
The union’s dues-paying membership of 22,000 fell below 10,000 after Republicans who dominate state government all but eliminated collective bargaining, forbade automatic dues deductions and created major obstacles to continuing certification. As income from dues dwindled, union organizing staff was reduced.
Wisconsin Association for Correctional Law Enforcement interim president Brian Cunningham has said that, if certified in
the election, his group will
obtain better pay and working conditions, even though the
group would be able to negotiate only for cost-of-living pay increases.
WSEU director Marty Beil has maintained that certifying under the new state law was too costly and time-consuming, and that the correctional officer leaders are wrong to think a smaller union can win anything significant from the state.
The Employment Relations Commission agreed with WSEU that state Department of Corrections managers engaged in unfair labor practices twice last year when they ordered an employee to remove WSEU clothing. The union protested, and within a short time, officials told supervisors that non-uniformed workers could wear “union apparel.”
The commission dismissed four other complaints.The Wisconsin Association of Correctional Law Enforcement filed petitions for an election on Oct. 31.